Mitch McConnell Plans Acquittal Vote, Setting Stage for Trump to Evade Conviction

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump, despite concerns over the "January exception" precedent such a move sets, sources say.

McConnell sent an email to colleagues Saturday saying he will vote to acquit Trump, according to two sources which relayed his position to the Associated Press and Politico. His message to colleagues said it was a "close call," but impeachment is "primarily a tool of removal" and the Senate doesn't have jurisdiction in this trial. McConnell sought to clarify that the Constitution "makes perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office." His decision comes on what is expected to be the final day of Trump's second impeachment trial.

"Colleagues—as I have said for some time, today's vote is a vote of conscience and I know we will all treat it as such. I have been asked directly by a number of you how I intend to vote, so thought it right to make that known prior to the final vote," McConnell wrote to fellow GOP senators, according to an email obtained by Politico.

"While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction," McConnell continued. "Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit."

During the trial on Tuesday, lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin warned that Trump's attorneys are setting a dangerous precedent for future presidents by establishing a period in which they are not held accountable for their actions—a so-called "January exception."

Trump is currently facing one charge of inciting an insurrection for his role in directing the January 6 Capitol attacks. Many of Trump's GOP defenders have openly mocked the process in the Senate, even putting their feet up on seats and doodling as House Democrats lay out the case against the former president.

A two-thirds vote is needed to convict Trump on the lone charge of impeachment he faces, a move that appears even less likely to happen with McConnell's decision to acquit.

Newsweek reached out to McConnell's office for additional remarks Saturday morning.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stand behind President Donald Trump as he signs the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act at the White House in Washington, D.C. on March 27, 2020. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty